Lombard J Gasbarro, owner of the oldest single-family wine store in the United States, died of cancer on Monday, aged 62.

Gasbarro, a practising lawyer for many years, was a member of the Rhode Bar Association until 1995, but his real enthusiasm was for wine.

Gasbarro’s, in Providence, Rhode Island, was founded in 1898 by his grandfather Antonio Gasbarro, an Italian immigrant.

Lom Gasbarro liked to say his store carried the largest selection of Italian wines in the United States. He reckoned he featured about 900 different Italian labels in his store and enjoyed searching out wines from lesser-known areas of Italy, such as the island of Ischia, off Naples, and Pantelleria of Sicily.

He was recognized in 1999 by Wine Spectator magazine as one of the top 10 wine retailers in the country.

Gasbarro knew his customers. He paid particular attention to old favourites like the 100-year-old woman who drank a light-red wine that came in a bottle with a screw cap. She would only order her wine from him, he said, and he once joked that when he died she would only speak to his son.

A jovial man with a good sense of humour, he considered wine magazines over-rated in many ways. ‘I’ve come to the conclusion that these wine gurus who write for influential wine magazines think of themselves as gods. They’ve become far too influential,’ he once said.

He leaves his wife Sandra Migliaccio and three sons, Lombard, Thomas and Mark.

Written by Michele Shah24 July 2002